12k with a 20kg sandbag!

Back in May I took part in my first Iron Run and reviewed the event for Muddy Race (http://www.muddyrace.co.uk/race-reviews/iron-run-review-an-elite-fun-runners-perspective/). I said that if Iron Run could address the issue of queuing at the slide, maybe by widening it for two or more people to go down it at once and sort out their marshal/ signage positioning they’ll have everything a great OCR requires.

Following my article I was told by the race director that they valued my constructive criticism and would be doing all they could to put the issues I raised right and kindly invited me back to see first hand if they had delivered and I’m happy to report that I can whole heartedly say they did.

When arriving at the venue the first thing I noticed was the significant rise in volume of participants meaning the queuing issue was going to be their biggest challenge but the slide had been split into two allowing double the amount of people to use it at any one time and although I did have to wait a couple of minutes that was to be expected as I had started in one of the later waves and was running at a much slower speed than normal due to the 20kg of weigh on my shoulders.

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The position of marshals and the course signage/ markings had also undergone a huge improvement meaning there was next to no chance of going the wrong way or getting into any trouble in what is some of the boggiest mud I’ve experienced at any event.

There were also some other added additions including a rope climb which is always a good challenge, especially when your arms have been raised and hands clutching a heavy bag for the races duration.

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So the question remains, why did I choose to run what is already a very tough 12k race carrying a 20kg sandbag? There are 2 reasons. The first being that I have some crazy team mates within Parklands Tough Running who meet up every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 5.30am to train with sandbags. I occasionally join in and some of them had already committed to taking them for a ride at Iron Run. I wasn’t going to let the side down!

Secondly, I had a rare Saturday morning off work so wanted to make the most of it and take the opportunity to give my baby son his first run out at parkrun in the buggy. I managed 17.36 for the 5k course but this meant I wouldn’t get to Cranford in time for the elite wave.

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A couple of our ‘sandbaggers’ had started in the 11.30 wave. My team mate Toli, who was even more crazy and carrying a 30kg bag, my wife (who was bagless) and I went in the 12pm wave. We started at a steady pace and found ourselves around the middle of the one hundred or so competitors but I could sense there were a few who didn’t really like the fact that they were behind us and made a bid to overtake. My competitive side automatically upped my speed which left Toli to fend for himself as Becky tagged on.

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Once the field spread out after the early running section and the twisting woodland there were long stretches where it was just the two of us left to enjoy what is a great course in an excellent location of differing terrains. We eventually began to catch the 11.45am wave tail enders then at half way we were side by side with Adam and Amanda who were also lugging the 20kg bags. We did the slide and proceeding hills together before reaching the 20 meter swim. This and the slide itself were the only two parts of the entire course that the sandbag didn’t come with me on.

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The hills and the 25 degree heat was now beginning to slow me slightly. Becky seemed to be full of energy as she chatted away while I muttered a slurred reply as and when I could. This was until the second set of hills came, these ones are so steep a rope is suspended from the top of each to aid both the assent and decent. I was determined to make it up and down every one with the bag while Becky’s energy began to deplete.

It was now my turn to inspire her on with the words of “if I can do it with this sandbag then so can you”. They seem to work as we both completed them all and made our assault on the last couple of miles to the finish.

Several wall climbs followed, my bag went up and over them all. The effort required to lift it from the ground back onto my shoulders was now one of real struggle as not only was tiredness setting in but the weight was increasing due to the water and mud it had gathered.

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A few more water wades followed before a smaller slide, with which my sandbag came down with me, brought us back into the event village and the finish line was in sight.

One last wall climb and we had made it. I throw the bag to the floor for the final time as my well earned medal was hung around my neck. It was good to see it was I slightly different medal and t-shirt to that of May’s event as it would have been easier and less costly for them to have kept the same once for all their events but the variety will act as one of many reasons why people will continue coming back.

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Although the considerable amount of extra weight did drain my energy and cut my speed, that was to be expected and I actually found it a much more comfortable experience than I was expecting it to be while it acted as the perfect challenge allowing me to get the most out of the day while still being able to accompany my wife.

Massive respect to all my team mates who all finished the full 12k in good time with their sandbags and to Iron Run for backing up their promises of improvement to make it one of the best OCR’s on the calendar that will only continue to get better.

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